What Is Insectivore?

Category: Feeding Behavior.

When you hear the term insectivore, if you immediately think of eating bugs, than you would be correct. Scientists call this type of carnivore an entomophage and the practice of eating insects is not just limited to the animal kingdom. Many humans eat insects as well. The first insectivores were amphibians, as it’s been discovered that many of the animals from that time period had mouths that were filled with sharp conical teeth. These types of teeth are perfect for crunching through bones in meat, but they are also perfect for crunching through exoskeletons.

A brown robber fly eating a hoverfly. © fir0002.

They are specialized hunters

Many insectivores are specialty hunters, take the dragonflies, flycatchers, swifts swallows and bats, for example, all of these creatures feed on flying insects. Like any predator, insectivores must be quick and agile flyers and must have an evolved exceptional means of detecting their prey. While most animals are visual, the bat is a bit different. This creature uses a biological sonar to locate its prey. This biological phenomenon is called echolocation. It is from bats that scientists developed today’s sonars.

Most insects are very small

Consider the fact that though very small, most species of insects are prolific breeders. This means that they will be found in large numbers wherever they are. A lot of the animal biomass on the planet is made up of insects. Insects can be found in non-marine and non-polar environments. Creatures that use insects as their primary diet are true insectivores, while many other creatures use insects as a secondary source of protein. It may be hard to believe but many bugs offer as much nutritional value, as many of the foods human beings normally eat. So, it is entirely possible for not only other animals to survive on a diet of insects, humans could too.

Giant anteater, a insectivorous mammal. © Dave Pape.

Examples of insectivores

A few species of insectivores find their food inside wood and this will be your termites, your woodpeckers and your bears. A woodpecker, for instance, clings tenuously to the side of tree trunks and uses it sharp beak to drill holes within the word to extricate its prey which includes the grubs and carpenter ants.

Moles and hedgehogs

Moles and hedgehogs feed on large number of insects and are very good at finding and eating them. There are over 20 species of moles found throughout Eurasia and the Americas. Moles have very tiny, velvety, invisible ears, large front limbs and smaller rear limbs. They are designed for digging and lives on a diet that is made up of small vertebrates and insects.

Insectivorous plants, the Venus Flytrap. © Noah Elhardt.

Large animals feed on tiny insects too

There are some snakes, lizards and turtles that are insectivores. Around freshwater lakes, streams and rivers, you will notice that there are some fish that also eat insects. Frogs, spiders, the aardvark, and the sloth are also insectivores. A lot of primates also supplement their diets with insects.

Plants that are insectivores

The thing about insectivores is that they don’t have to be animal to be one. There are many plants that are insectivores. A commonly known insectivores plant is the Venus flytrap. Others include the Tropical Pitcher Plant, Dewy Pine, Waterwheel Plant and the Cobra Lily. These are advantageous eaters who use their petals or smell as a way to get insects and other small animals to fall into their traps. These are some highly evolved plants and through the millennia, they have developed a variety of mechanisms to secure their prey. These plants grow in places where the soil is nutrient-poor, so they had to adapt to survive. Surprisingly, insects are very nutritious and can fulfill the plant’s nutrition needs.

More on insect: What do insects eat?

More on specialized diets

  1. Avivore
  2. Carnivore
  3. Detritivore
  4. Herbivore

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